Nigel: Young. Zimbabwean. Gay.

Nigel James has been living in South Africa since 2014, living on his own and working in Johannesburg. An independent and hardworking soul, Nigel relishes in the fast-paced life there, but he still follows events going on in Zimbabwe, with a particular investment in the resurgence of citizen movements. Despite this desire to contribute, Nigel hasn’t been back to Zimbabwe in three years. And there’s two very good reasons why. Continue reading →

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Tanya’s Nefertari

Nefertari means “beautiful companion”. An Egyptian queen and wife of Ramses the Great, Nefertari is celebrated for her beauty and style. She’s a fitting inspiration for Tanyaradzwa Mushayi, who has always had a fascination with Kemet and ancient history. “I thought why not mix my Shona name with my obsession with Kemet.” So she married the two names together, and the Tanya Nefertari brand came into being.

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Driving down Samora

Samora Machel Avenue has to be the longest road I’ve ever driven. It cuts through suburbs, the hustle and bustle of Harare’s central business district, branching off into its many little tributaries that run through the city. It is long, straight, rarely bends, and serves as an artery to the capital city’s daily pulse. Continue reading →

To Acie Lumumba:

Dear Mr. Lumumba,

I debated on whether or not to write this letter. Most people have written you off as a non-entity, and in fact your celebrity has diminished over the past few weeks. Still, I think it’s important to let you know how I feel. As someone claiming to stand for and represent young Zimbabweans, it’s only fair that I, as a young Zimbabwean, give my opinion.

Unlike many, many, many people, I think you have potential. In a political sphere dominated by people aged 50 and over, it’s refreshing to have someone closer to my age and experiences. However, I understand why you rub people the wrong way. You’ve rubbed me the wrong way. You proclaim yourself as the “political maverick of this generation” – a  bold statement that makes you come across as vain. You’re pompous. You’re condescending. You’re arrogant. Cockiness and confidence in politics is not a bad thing, but the truth is that you haven’t done anything to back up your claims. Learn to humble yourself. The title ‘political maverick’ is not given or taken, it is earned. 

Talk less, listen more. I was one of many people that tuned into that disaster of an interview with Ruvheneko on ZiFM. You were unwilling to engage on even the smallest things – I remember Ruvheneko asking you a series of true/false questions, with you insisting on replying yes or no. It seems small and inconsequential, but how can you even begin to start talking about the big things when you can’t even engage with other people on the little things? How do you expect to win us over when you talk down to people, instead of conversing with them?

It’s understandable to have such a reaction when you feel as if you’re being attacked – I too respond defensively when asked personal questions. However, I’m not the politician here, you are. You can’t keep losing your cool when someone asks you pointed questions. Bear in mind, these are the questions we’ve also asked ourselves about you and your intentions. Don’t be afraid to answer tough questions, and learn to maintain your professionalism when answering.

You started a political party, even though you previously insisted that you wouldn’t. Good for you. I don’t know anything about this new party, and to be honest I don’t really care that much. Living in Zimbabwe has taught me not to raise my hopes too high, to resign myself to a cycle of dashed dreams and despondency. However, I will congratulate you for what you’re trying to do. Just do it right.

Zimbabwean youth are some of the most disadvantaged people in our country. We make up over a third of the population, yet we have nothing to aspire to. No jobs. No future, at least not in Zimbabwe. A life of hollow promises and frustration, watching the best days of our lives wasting away because of a system that’s failing us. If you’re that concerned about us and our future, then put aside your ego and focus on the people you claim to fight for. So stop talking. Start doing. I’m one of the few people that actually believes that you could make a change, but you will not achieve anything if you don’t change yourself.

I don’t expect a response to this letter. I don’t want one. I wanted to tell you how I feel, and that’s what I’ve done. I’ll leave you with this: do better Mr. Lumumba. Be better.

Regards,

A tired, frustrated, Zimbabwean youth.

 

Tara and her art

Her room is immaculate, save for the papers and notebooks on the desk.  The chime of a dream catcher on the wall is interrupted as Tara closes the window and sits down, cross-legged, on her bed.  Some of her drawings are up on the cupboard, with a gemstone chart stuck on her door.  Looking at it, I can identify some of the stones on her windowsill. A tinge of citrus lingers in the air, and Tara moves to tidy her bed, which she thinks is less than presentable.

“Art is the only thing I focused on.”

 

Tara the Artist

Tara paintingTara Dena Jack is an artist.  She always has been.  From her days in nursery school, to high school at Hellenic, and now studying towards her Bachelor of Fine Art.  That she was meant to be an artist, Tara never doubted that.  “It (art) has always been a strong point, since I’m not really academic.” Tara points to the paintings stacked on top of her bookcase as proof.  Even when she’s meant to be studying, her fingers itch for pen and paper and Tara draws instead.  “Art is an outlet for me.”

As happy as she is with her degree and career path, art wasn’t always her  first choice.  For a time, music held sway.  “I started music when I was 4 or 5, and I started playing the clarinet when I was 14, so in Form Two,” Tara says as she adjusts her legs to get more comfortable.  “I also taught myself basic piano, so I can play a few tunes.”  When it came down to choose between art and music, the decision boiled down to what gave Tara more creative license.  Art it was.

 

“I can express myself more with art. Art is more liberating.”

2016-06-03 (2)What of her art itself?  Tara scrolls through her Instagram and flips through her book of doodles as she talks about her style and what she’s created.  I notice a lot of pencil work and inking, but not much in the form of paintings.  A slight frown on her mouth as she readjusts her seating again and ties up her hair.  “With painting, I don’t have a style that I’ve developed.  With my pencil work, it’s more detailed.  I like stuff like pencil work and pen work, stuff that you can control.”  Her pencil work is stunning. Images of skulls and candles flit across her phone screen.   Tara’s proud of her pieces, but she admits that her work is dark. “In O Level, I did kitsch, still-life, like ‘pretty pretty girly stuff’.  But I find skulls more interesting. You think about a painting of a skull more than just a painting of a flower.”

 

“I always try incorporate a hidden meaning in my art.”

 

Tara fiddles with her hairbands as she talks about her plans for the future.  She wants to get her art out there for people to see – something she hasn’t been doing.  She thinks back to her art teachers in high school and how they’ve shaped her life so far, and continue to play a role in deciding her future.  “Most of my role models are my art teachers.  They see what I’m capable of, they’re more confident in my abilities than I am.”  It was Greg Shaw, her high school art teacher and artist in Harare, who pushed Tara to develop her skills as an artist.  It was her O Level art teacher who convinced Tara to study Fine Art at Rhodes University.  Their influence has motivated Tara to pay it forward and become an art teacher and artist.

 

Tara the Zimbabwean

Would she work in Zimbabwe?  Tara pauses, and takes a breath before responding. “I’m drawn to political stuff.” She tilts her head in inference.  “Political stuff that I wouldn’t be able to do that. And I can’t do kitsch stuff either.”  I ask her the question again.  She looks up, frowns and responds, “I don’t know.”

To see more of Tara’s work, check out her Instagram.

All the art pieces in this story are property of Tara Dena Jack. 

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So far so good? Young Zimbabwean identity in 2016

36 years ago, Southern Rhodesia was wiped from existence and Zimbabwe was born. Great pomp and ceremony ensued as the populace celebrated the end of a long guerrilla and the establishment of majority rule. Bob Marley even wrote a song for us, and he came down and performed, free of charge, at the official Independence Day celebrations:

In 2016, things are different.  Zimbabweans are scattered across the globe. Many people have left for their studies or employment. There is a generation of people with Zimbabwean heritage who have not set foot in the country.  And for a born-free generation, navigating their Zimbabwean identity is a chore in itself. Four such Zimbabweans, all studying at Rhodes University in South Africa, speak of what it means to be Zimbabwean, 36 years after Independence.

Marshall, 23

“Being Zimbabwean in 2016 comes with many arduous challenges and a lot of hard work in the quest to get opportunity and recognition necessary for the meaningful success in the global village we live in today.

As a young Zimbabwean, I find it hard to break barriers no matter how good I am – barriers that, if broken, will propel my career to dizzy heights. This is largely due to negative political connotations that come with being from Zimbabwe.”

Perpetual, 23

“Being a Zimbabwean youth is tough. Particularly a patriotic youth. You yourself fail to explain where you draw your strong allegiance to the country from.

It’s quite an amazing phenomenon really. I can rave and curse about the situation in Zimbabwe but dare someone else do it. So what does it mean to be a Zimbabwean in 2016, 36 years after independence? It’s a myriad of emotions. Love. Hate. Love. Hate even more.”

Mholiwethu, 21

“My Zimbabwean identity means being resilient in the face of all adversities and having faith and hope as strong a mustard seed.”

Varaidzo, 18

“I like that Zimbabweans, we’re peaceful people. Yeah our country’s messed up, but we’re survivors. It hasn’t broken us.  If you’re outside of the country, you know you’re not alone. You’ve got a community of Zimbabweans there with you.”

Zimbabwean Identity, 36 years on

So what does it mean to be a young Zimbabwean in 2016? There isn’t a straightforward answer to that. There’s a constant tug of war in establishing your identity.  Inheriting the past, surviving the present, building for the future – often times, it can be suffocating to live such an existence. Nevertheless, for many of the young Zimbabweans out there, their national heritage and identity is a badge they wear with pride.

Simudzai mureza wedu weZimbabwe
Yakazvarwa nomoto wechimurenga;
Neropa zhinji ramagamba
Tiidzivirire kumhandu dzose;
Ngaikomborerwe nyika yeZimbabwe.

Phakamisan iflegi yethu yeZimbabwe
Eyazalwa yimpi yenkululeko;
Legaz’ elinengi lamaqhawe ethu
Silivikele ezithan izonke;
Kalibusisiwe ilizwe leZimbabwe.

Godfrey: life through his lens

The camera has always fascinated Godfrey Tafadzwa Kadzere. Even though he’d studied commerce since high school, photography remained a presence in his mind, an area he’d always wanted to explore, but never got the occasion to do so.  That all changed when his aunt got him his first camera – a small BenQ digital camera, a present for his 19th birthday.

“I had a growing desire to capture special moments and cherish them, hold onto them in the form of pictures.”

From the pictures he took with this first camera (a camera he still has to this day), Godfrey’s connection with photography grew.  His camera became an extension of him, so much so that people at his university referred to him as the Camera Guy.  Seeing Godfrey without a camera of some sort felt almost unnatural, like a tortoise without its shell.  The more photos he took, the more photography became a part of his life.  “I found myself spending a lot of time carrying my camera everywhere that I would go, then going through each and every one of them, analysing and reflecting on why I took it and looking at how I could improve.”

The Creation of Liyon Media

Liyon Media

Liyon Media’s logo

Godfrey saw an opportunity to make some money off his skill. In July 2013, he started his own media company, Liyon Pictures.  The name has significant meaning for him – a way to honour his past whilst setting the foundations for the future:

“I wanted a name that identifies with my heritage and values. Ndinoera Shumba, proudly. That was key in setting it in stone. The Lion part was going to stick. At the back of my mind I recalled the significance and symbolism of a Lion – noble, respectable, presence. Lastly, I looked up any pages that has similar names. There were several. So I decided to add a twist with an ‘i’. Then it ended as Liyon.”

The venture was strictly meant to be photos only, but over time, Godfrey realised that incorporating other media would work in his favour.  So he started LOTv in 2014, which covers all types of video content: events, panel discussions, one-on-one interviews.  As it stands, Liyon Pictures and LOTv are subsidiaries of Liyon Media.  Liyon Media also has Brand Management and Design sections.

Back to Zimbabwe

Godfrey started his company when he was still a student at Rhodes University.  The campus environment provided fertile ground for his creativity to breathe and flow.  His first clients were his fellow students: they still form a solid support base for Liyon Media.  However, Godfrey finished his degree programme at the end of 2015, and it was time for him (and Liyon Media) to move back across the border. The adjustment to full-time life in Harare has not gone as easily as he’d anticipated.

godfrey3

“I pretty much started from scratch as the new year rolled in. Since I was hardly in Zimbabwe due to my schooling commitment in South Africa I had a long way to go in building relationships, partnerships and networking with influential industry stakeholders. I am steadying the ship slowly but surely. I am enjoying the experience so far, learning as much as I can from as many people as I get through the year.”

Although not a seamless transition, Godfrey’s enjoyed the experience so far. Working with Zimbojam as well as establishing a name for himself has kept him very busy, and it’s also allowed him to connect with people in the same industry.  Events such as Hustler’s Market,  Unplugged, and the Allied Arts Music Festival have opened avenues for engagement and collaboration – opportunities that Godfrey is excited to explore.

The Road Ahead

From collaborating with other creatives, to maintaining ties with established contacts, and never letting his relationship with God slip or stumble, Godfrey has big plans and even bigger dreams. “So far I am still developing and learning. Soon I will expand – more partnerships, more high quality content, and my own establishment that will house all things media, which I am extremely excited about. That’s my dream – to have a renowned, sort after media house that provides high quality content timeously.”

With every photo and video, he does his own bit to contribute to Zimbabwe’s creative culture, and I’m excited to see more of his work out there.  We could use a few more Godfreys: young, daring and hardworking people who aren’t afraid to embrace their talent and live out their passion.

Godfrey b&w

All photographs and videos in this post are courtesy of Liyon Media

To see more of Liyon Media’s photography, follow them on Twitter @LiyonMedia.

Check out Godfrey’s personal Twitter account @GodfreyTafi

 

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